The art of autumn gardening

Michelle Chapman 

Prepare your garden for the winter months and also save yourself vital time and energy. Our blogger Michelle Chapman, offers some great advice on putting your garden to bed.


This week I’ve surfed the Internet and scoured various gardening magazines and found that there’s plenty of advice on what needs to be done at this time of year.

I don’t know about you, but by November I’m a little tired of gardening chores and more willing to adopt a lazier approach.


A couple of years ago when I started to prepare my garden borders in the spring, I noticed it was the shady borders—the ones under all the trees that hang over the fence from the public land next door—which had the crumbliest, most healthy looking soil. Why was that? I realised they’d benefitted from "compost direct”, aka the leaves which fell on them in the autumn.


So last year, I knocked down all the leaves that had gathered on my plants and made sure they made a nice layer on the soil. Then I gathered all the other leaves as usual, but instead of hauling them off to the compost bin at the bottom of the garden, I added them to the nearest border. It was much less work, my legs were grateful for not having such a hard time and my plants were snuggled down nicely for the winter.

This included my dahlias, which are in a sheltered part of the garden protected by a low wall. I decided not to move them, but to ensure they got the thickest layer of mulch instead. This year I’ve been rewarded by triple the number of blooms. Result! NB: Do not try if you are gardening north of the line that runs from the mouth of the River Severn (beneath Wales) to The Wash (the dip in the coastline above Norwich). Unfortunately this will not work.


I mentioned my approach to a friend who was horrified: “but you’re making a nice bed for the slugs and snails over winter”. She might have been right, but seeing as I have to make plenty of slug patrols in the spring, I don’t think it made any extra work for that busy time of the year.


I also had another surprise last year as my laziness meant I hadn't cut down all the dead flower stems on my Eryngium, Echinops and Artemesia. The seed heads looked good and I was rewarded on a regular basis by a pair of blackcap birds busily tucking into them, just metres away from my kitchen window.

My only regret? I hadn’t thought of this before.

What are you doing differently this autumn?

Michelle Chapman is a gardener, freelance writer and garden blogger from Wiltshire. She writes the award winning blog, Veg Plotting, where her small town garden is a regular feature alongside any topic which springs to mind whilst at her allotment. 

Images © Michelle Chapman